Tango Diva : Travel Stories for Women, by Women

by Kate Horan

Big name to no name designer brands—Italy serves up both on a platter! Kate Horan shares her picks for digging up designer deals.

After the museums, architecture, churches and the obligatory gelato or pizza, what most fashionistas really want is to ditch the guide book and start shopping! After all, Italy is legendary for sleek style and craftsmanship—translated into clothes and accessories—and when in Rome…as the saying goes.

Essentially, there are two general categories of goods to consider: the known fashion brands or the unique artisan-made products, often from unknown names.

Italian Mega-Brands

Thanks to the prevalence of worldwide marketing campaigns and the immediacy of the Internet, it is possible to be hyper-aware of the most current trends and styles as soon as they hit the runways in Europe, months before they reach our stores in the United States.

These very brands have outlet stores throughout Italy where the same designer pieces found in the city’s boutiques can be bought at a deep discount. Tote along your passport because if the purchase amount reaches a minimum of 150 euro, the value added tax (VAT) refund is available to you (obtained at the airport after verification of departure, receipt of purchase, and visual inspection of the item).

All this amounts to significant savings on items. Often it is possible to find pieces that were never shipped to American soil, so despite the fact it is a major brand, there is still the opportunity to have something truly unique.

Two of my favorite outlets are:

I Pellettieri D’Italia (Prada)

Localita Levanella, S.S. 69

52025 Montevarchi Levanella (AR)

Tel: +39.055.91.901

Normally open 7 days a week. Recommend calling ahead to check hours of operation.

Accessible by train from Florence to Montevarchi station (30-40 minutes), then a cab to the outlet (15 minutes).

Very well organized layout with helpful sales associates who speak English. At the entrance, take a numbered ticket from a dispenser. This is the identification number used while shopping. Once you have found something you like, show the sales associate the number, and the item is taken to the front and held (with the number as the ID) while you continue shopping—hands unfettered. When ready to leave, all the items you have selected are brought to the counter where final decisions can be made. Credit cards are accepted.

The Mall

Via Europa 8

50060 Leccio, Reggello – Firenze

Tel: +39.055.8657.775

Open 7 days a week. Hours 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. Recommend confirming hours.

Located about 30-40 minutes outside of Florence. Accessible by train (with a short taxi ride once you arrive.)

Brands: Agnona, Alexander McQueen, Giorgio Armani, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, Burberry, Emanuel Ungaro, Emilio Pucci, Ermenegildo Zegna, Fendi, Gucci, Hogan, I Pinco Pallino, La Perla, Loro Piana, Marni, Salvatore, Ferragamo, Sergio Rossi, Stella McCartney, Tod’s, Valentino, Yohji Yamamoto and Yves Saint Laurent.

The Mall is more similar in operation and layout to U.S. outlet malls—many different stand-alone boutique stores clustered in one setting and with a similar shopping experience (no identification numbers necessary).
Restaurant/café on site. Credit Cards accepted and VAT refund available.

Artisan Products

Throughout Italy’s cities, if one explores on foot, it is not uncommon to come upon a small workshop or store-front featuring unique, hand-crafted items sure to be a hit at home. From purses or belts to intricately fashioned jewelry and clothing, these items are made utilizing techniques that have been passed down through the generations.

Some items remain in the original style, staying true to tradition. But often times you will find artisans who have incorporated new materials and designs to create something altogether different. These are the discoveries that become true mementos of a trip abroad—something you will revisit every time you reach for it in your closet.

Two of my favorite artisans are:

Infinity

Borgo S.S. Apostoli, 18r

50123 Firenze – Italia

Tel: +39.055.239.8405

Rough-hewn, studded, braided, fringed and fastened with brass fittings and buckles, the leather creations coming from Infinity feel like a favorite pair of jeans or shoes in their comfortable fit and patina. Leathers are vegetable dyed and hand-tanned, using old-world techniques. Find purses, belts, small leather goods.
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Angela Caputi

Via S. Spirito, 58r

50125 Firenze – Italia

Tel: +39.055.212972

Angela Caputi’s bijoux is recognizable for its combinations of color and form, resulting in striking pieces that are collected by women throughout Europe and more recently, the United States. Necklaces, earrings, bracelets and belts are almost exclusively composed of resin—yet take on the appearance of semi-precious stones such as jade, onyx, ivory, coral, turquoise or mimic the texture and shape of wood and shells. While her boutiques can be found in Milan and throughout Florence, the largest selection can be found at the showroom across the Arno River, on Via S. Spirito.

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